A thought on game design and storytelling: it seems like how seriously players can take a story depends on the level of thought that got put into the setting. Also, I've written before about games where what you actually do clashes with the fiction. Exampls of that include a pirate board game where you generally don't fight anyone, and a cyberpunk mystery ("Android") where the rules make you feel like you're pinning blame on someone instead of discovering the real killer.

Today's example starts with "Overwatch". There's an elaborate backstory: a robot war, a superhero squad, a vengeful black-ops guy turned (more) evil by a flawed experiment, and a genius moon gorilla illegally recalling the heroes to fight for justice again while Female!Hispanic!Adam Jensen investigates a vague global conspiracy. And what do you do in this game? Stand in an arbitrary rectangle until the announcer says you win, or push a car. Which is exactly what you do in "Team Fortress 2", except that its deliberately silly story doesn't encourage you to think too hard about the characters' motives.

Similarly, people make fun of the newer "Sonic the Hedgehog" games for being random nonsense that should've died at least a decade ago. I used to read the comic book series, and it actually had a setting with consistent characters and places where things could happen other than the local mad scientist trying to blow them up. It was possible to accept (say) a singing mongoose using a concert for a personal crusade against nanotech in the hands of an AI who might be subverted, because there was an in-universe justification for that and the characters had a background with other things going on. Compare that to games like "Sonic Adventure", which was a clumsy thing where a handful of animal characters existed in a human world for no apparent reason and other events happened for no logic at all. (Finish a certain level, and a landslide opens a new path to a locked door, and the key appears in an alley in a distant city. Why? There's only the out-of-universe or "Doylist" explanation that it happens to advance the plot.)

From what I understand, the pony-themed MMORPG "Legends of Equestria" is meant to be a copy of Hasbro's cartoon world, down to obvious copies of specific buildings. But what is the gameplay like? It's a generic MMORPG. That clashes badly with the intended theme, without even getting into the copyright problems.

Getting back to "Overwatch", I note that there're some distinctly evil characters among the playable ones, and that they and the good ones can be on the same or opposing teams. The effect is an attempt at story that fails and calls attention to how different the gameplay is. The gameplay itself is fine, but jarring in comparison to what it's supposed to represent. It's as though I were playing a farming game where every plant has to be brutally beaten into submission.

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KSchnee's avatar
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A-non-mouse's avatar
Well to be fair the payload maps in overwatch at least have a story.. The King's row payload is an EMP that the attackers are trying to detonate in the midst of a bunch of omnics, for example.